Society and modern medicine’s approach to aging and end-of-life care needs to be more focused on extending patients’ quality of life and human connection, according to Atul Gawande, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard School of Public Health and author of a new book, Being Mortal.
Gawande, a surgeon, executive director of Ariadne Labs, and staff writer for The New Yorker, discussed the book, released October 7, 2014, in multiple media interviews including the television shows The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Charlie Rose Show. He talked about how dealing with his own father’s cancer inspired him, in part, to write the book. “We don’t ask what priorities people have in their life besides just living longer. What are the tradeoffs you are willing to make or not make, what are your fears and goals, what worries you about the future? If we ask that as doctors, we have some guideposts when life is short,” Gawande told Stewart.
Gawande said the book offers a way “to remake how we in medicine and society manage mortality through the stories of patients, their family members, nursing home attendants, hospice workers, geriatricians, surgeons, oncologists, pioneers, contrarians, and many more of the more than 200 people I interviewed over the last several years.”